Philip Sheffield and Margaret McDonald – “very special and unique performance” of Dream of Gerontius
Margaret McDonald and Philip Sheffield were soloists in a recent performance of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in Ripon Cathedral, reviewed by the Yorkshire Post:
“It was clear from the start that this was going to be a very special and unique performance as Philip Sheffield rose to sing. Gone was the smoothly rounded Gerontius heard sometimes. This interpretation was the worried and scared Gerontius, finding himself in a strange and unfamiliar place, in a state of limbo in its truest sense and struggling to retain his earthly identity. His rendering of ‘Sanctus Fortis’ was passionate, keeping true to the extremes of range demanded by Elgar rather than taking the easier options.
The opening of the second part has been criticised over the years as being too long and sparse. In this performance, John Dunford had the measure of tempo and phrasing perfectly judged and so we were presented, through Philip Sheffield, with a much calmer Gerontius. Gone were the earthly trappings – he was floating and waiting and we were with him. The Angel, sung by Margaret McDonald greeted him. This passage in the score, beautifully sung by both soloists is quite extraordinary as the Angel helps Gerontius understand what is and what is to be. Margaret McDonald’s role as the Angel was consummately performed, her voice stunningly beautiful. She sang not only to Gerontius but to each and every one of us in the audience involving us within the narrative as Gerontius asked the questions and waited patiently for the answers.”
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